A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Mysterious Traveller” is a jazz-fusion tune from the Weather Report album of the same name. It’s a good representation of Wayne Shorter’s 1970s composing style.

“Mysterious Traveller” isn’t part of the standard jazz repertoire. In other words, not one is going to turn to you on a jazz gig and say, “Mysterious Traveller in Eb; 1-2-3-4.” It is, however, one of the classic of early jazz fusion, and if you or your group wants to “rock out” while staying in an overall jazz style, then this is the tune for you. It’s funky, and has only one chord to think about while soloing!

Recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Weather Report: Mysterious Traveller

Various Artists: Celebrating The Music Of Weather Report

Jeff Lorber Fusion: Live at Jazz Alley, Seattle (video)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Mysterious Traveller” is one of the few Real Book tunes that contains a complete, written-out piano arrangement. As such, it’s a great opportunity for you to learn it note-for-note and really “get it under your fingers. This will take you out of your musical comfort zone and while the notes and rhythms may feel a little strange and unusual at first, they’ll soon start to feel more natural as you enter more and more into the world of Wayne Shorter.

The bass line is funky, there are cool 4th voicings in the right hand, and a nice unison part played with both hands at the end of each section. If you usually play “straight ahead” jazz, learning a few tunes like “Mysterious Traveller” is a great way to grow as a musician.

Wayne Shorter doesn’t always write out chord changes for his tunes, preferring to notate chord voicings and sometimes even providing more than one bass note for the player to choose from. Although there are no chord symbols written for “Mysterious Traveller,” the Real Book indicated that there’s an “open” solo section on an F#m7 chord. This means that each soloist improvises over an F#m7 chord for as long as they want. If you’r new to playing modally, start out by using an F# Dorian mode (F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E). Then you can explore pentatonic scales like A pentatonic, E pentatonic, and B pentatonic.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Mysterious Traveller (album): Wikipedia

1970s in Jazz: Wikipedia

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